Features

World Championships 2008: The first four days

Tuesday, 6th May 2008

The competition is well underway with a couple of close things but no real surprises, or so I thought half way through writing this report. ( See Group C)

GROUP A

The group favourites Sweden had a sticky start to the competition and only two goals late in the third period gave them the 3 points against a better than expected Belarus side. It looked so different in the first period as goals from Johansson and Backstrom put them 2-0 up after 12 minutes. Belarus pulled a goal back through Kostyuchenok with 90 seconds left to set up an amazing second stanza. Two goals in 47 seconds by Zadelenov and Ugarov put Belarus remarkably 3-2 up and dreaming of a shock. Three minutes later, the Tre Krone had a two man advantage and made it count with the equalising goal from Hornqvist. Belarus hit back and again took the lead on the powerplay with 4 mins of the period left through Zhurik. A minute later, it was all square again as Nilsson scored. End of the second 4-4 and anybodies game.

Unbelievably Belarus took the lead again with less than two minutes gone in the third, Meleshko scoring. Again they could not hold on to the lead and Honrqvist scored his second and Sweden’s fifth to tie the game once again. Sweden finally took the lead with just less than 10 minutes left when Niklas Wallin scored and despite major effort by Belarus, that was the end of the scoring. 6-5 to Sweden but a monumental effort by Belarus.

Switzerland opened their championship with a comfortable 4-1 win over France . The Eidgenossen scorers were Wick, Sprunger, Bartschi and Sannitz. France’s consolation goal came from Desrosiers.

Switzerland played their second game against Belarus, wondering if the 4 NHL players Belarus added to their squad would make a difference. The first period was a tight affair with the Swiss outshooting Belarus by 13 to 8 but only one goal to show for their efforts. This came on the powerplay after 13 minutes when Sprunger scored his second of the tournament. Not a lot else to report on the first period and it ended 1-0 to Switzerland. Belarus upped their effort in the 2nd and deservedly equalised with just over 7 minutes gone as Koltsov got the goal. Switzerland retook the lead 7 minutes later with a powerplay goal. Belarus had just successfully killed a too many men penalty when Salei headed for the bin on a cross checking minor. This time Switzerland took advantage and that man Sprunger scored again. There was no more scoring in the game as the Swiss saw out a nervous last 30 seconds as Belarus pulled the goalie for a 6 on 4 advantage. Overall a deserved but close run thing for the Swiss and they duly take their place in the next round.

Sweden's second game was expected to be a cake walk for them against France and after a nervous first period, that is exactly what happened. After a 0-0 first 20 minutes, Sweden turned up the gas and scored 9 unanswered goals, four in the second and 5 in the third period to set up a group deciding game against Switzerland. Scorers for the Tre Krone were Backstrom with 2 goals, Martensson, Holmqvist, Weinhandl, Wallin, Edler, Nilsson and Johnsson.

France will play Belarus to see who takes 3rd place with the loser going to the relegation round.

GROUP B

Canada opened up proceedings in this group with a comfortable 5-1 win over Slovenia. Period 1 was littered with minor infractions and a single early goal in the third minute from Hamhuis assisted by Heatley and Kunitz. Canada doubled their lead after just 41 seconds of the second when their top line combined to give Dany Heatley the goal assisted by Getzlaf and Nash. The game was over as a contest 10 minutes later when Martin St Louis scored a powerplay marker to make it 3-0. Slovenia’s top player Anze Kopitar pulled one back 3 minutes later but Canada ended the period with a 3 goal advantage as Heatley got his second of the game. Canada eased up in the third with the game won but still managed to add a fifth with the hat trick by Dany Heatley.

It was the turn of Canada’s neighbours USA to put on an exhibition in the next game as they defeated a very disappointing Latvia side by 4 – 0 . The young Americans were far too good for Latvia and goals from Brown, Kane, Parise and O’Sullivan, all on the powerplay gave them a comfortable opening victory. They even had the luxury of missing a penalty shot in the middle of the second period as Stempniak has his shot saved. The game ended with a bout of handbags between several Latvian and American players but nothing to write home about.

Game 2 in the group round robin saw Canada absolutely demolish a poor Latvia by 7-0. It could have been many more as they ran riot over a static Latvian defence. Early goals in the second and third minutes of the 1st period eased Canadian nerves and they proceeded to put on a show for the partisan home crowd. Green and Heatley with his 4th goal of the tournament were the scorers. The second was more of the same as Nash, St Louis and Kunitz scored within 90 seconds at the start of the period. That was it for goalie Mazalskis and he was replaced by the veteran Naumovs. This stemmed the tide as Canada only managed one more marker from Rick Nash to go to the second break 7-0 up.

Once again Canada took the foot off the gas and coasted the third without adding to the score. Tempers flared a bit with 8 mins left as Ivanans earned himself a 5 plus game for spearing after an altercation in front of the Latvian goalie.

USA also made it two wins from two games in the late match up with Slovenia. The Americans hit penalty trouble early on in the game but it was on a powerplay of their own that they took the lead, Kane getting the score assisted by Kunitz. The American powerplay unit was proving too much for the Slovenians and they scored twice in the second period, both goals coming from Phil Kessel. USA had now scored 7 powerplay goals in 5 periods of hockey. Kopitar scored for Slovenia with 3 mins left in the period to make the score 3-1 going into the last 20 mins. USA rounded off the scoring in the third with an even handed goal by Booth and the hat trick goal by Kessel to give a final score of 5-1.

These results set up a Tuesday afternoon game between Canada and USA for bragging rights at the top of the group. Latvia and Slovenia will play to see who marches on to the second round and who goes to the relegation play downs.

GROUP C

The group opened up with last year’s silver medallist Finland easily beating Germany 5-1. The first period was a cure for insomnia as neither side looked like breaking down the other. The game needed a goal and it duly arrived for Finland with a powerplay goal after 21minutes. Koivu scored the goal with an assist from ex Manchester Stormy Janne Niskala and Peltonen. Indiscipline cost the Germans again soon after as Finland took a 2-0 lead on a two man advantage powerplay, scored by Oli Jokinen. Germany pulled a goal back on 32 minutes when Busch scored on the powerplay. End of the 2nd 2-1 Finland. The game ended as a contest with just over 3mins of the third period gone as a short hander by Koivu and a score by Hoivanen put the Finns 4-1 up. The great Timo Selanne ended the scoring to make it 5-1 to Finland.

Slovakia matched Finland’s score with a convincing 5-1 victory over Norway. Scorers for the Slovaks, possible dark horses in the competition were Melicharek, Petrovicki, Hossa and Podhradsky. Mathis Olimb scored Norway’s only goal. Final score 5-1 Slovakia.

I said at the top of the article that there had been no shocks so far. That all changed in Group C on Monday evening. First up were favourites Finland against Norway, with all the pundits predicting an easy win for the Finns. Nobody told Norway as they took the game to their illustrious neighbours and gave them the fright of their lives. Finland duly took the lead on their first powerplay after only 90 seconds as Jokinen scored and the crowd sat back for a glut of goals. Norway had not read the script however, and equalised 3 minutes later with a goal from Morten Ask. Finland took the lead for the second time on 16minutes as their top line of Peltonen, Seelanne and Koivu were too strong on the powerplay for the Norwegian defence. Back came Norway and again equalised on a two man advantage play with 9 seconds left in the period, Bastianssen getting the goal. 2-2 at the end of the period and Norway surprisingly outshooting Finland 10-8.

The second period was a tight affair with Norway defending resolutely and keeping the scores level at 2-2 after 40 minutes. Finland peppered the Norwegian goal in the third, having 16 shots on goal but they could not find a way past an inspired Grotnes in the Norwegian goal. Into overtime and Finland at last found a way through after 1m27seconds, Ruutu scoring assisted by Koivu and Jokinen. The point gained by Norway in this game might prove crucial in the last of the qualifying games. Finland, with 2 wins progress to the next round.

Shock nr 2 happend in the next game as Germany surprised Slovakia, winning 4-2. Germany jumped into a 2 goal first period lead with goals from Marco Sturm and Stefan Ustorf, both goals coming on powerplays. Slovakia hit back midway through the middle period as Ciernik scored on the powerplay. Michael Hackert restored the German two goal lead with two minutes left in the period and a shock was on the cards. Hackert got his second and Germany's fourth with 12 minutes left to settle the game, again on a powerplay situation. Slovakia scored a consolation goal with 4 seconds left as they pulled the goalie for a six on four situation, Kolnik getting the goal but it was too little too late and Germany has blown this group wide open.

Finland are the only team to be assured of a next round place with the three remaining teams all with a chance of progressing. Finland play Slovakia and Germany face Norway in the deciders on Wednesday with one of the teams being consigned to the relegation round.

GROUP D

Czech Republic started their tournament with a workmanlike victory over Denmark. The Danes might well shock some teams in the championship. They certainly shocked a sluggish Czech team in the first period. Denmark took the lead after 31 seconds through Stefan Lassen leaving the East Europeans staring at each other looking for someone to blame. Eight minutes later, parity was achieved when Vrbaty hit the equaliser. Kotalik put the Czechs 2-1 up in the 13th minute only for the Danes to come back at them again with an equaliser on 18.03 through Hansen. End of the 1st 2-2 and the neutrals in the crowd well behind the Danes. A second goal for Vrbaty and one from Irgl gave the Czechs a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period. Hejda settled the game for Czech Republic with 10 mins left , but credit must go to the Danes who, despite being outshot 47-17, gave a good account of themselves.

Final score 5-2 to the Czechs.

The mighty Russian scoring machine were next up in the group and they completely steamrollered Italy with a 7-1 victory. There was no sign of such a result in the first as Italy sat back and defended the blue line in the first period, limiting Russia to a single goal from Semin. Ovechkin doubled the lead early in the second, then the red machine went into overdrive and 4 goals in 7 minutes saw off the Italians. Morozov, Tereshenko, Semin and Shushinsky made it 6-0 after 40 minutes.

Russia eased off in the third and Italy scored a consolation goal through Cirone. The Russians were not finished and added a seventh in the 55th minute when the top scoring line in European hockey scored. Morozov, assisted by Zinoviev and Zaripov scored a superb goal, reminiscent of the many they score for their club side AK Bars Kazan.

Round 2 in the group produced the game of the tournament so far as old rivals Czech Republic and Russia met. It was the Russians that took the lead on 3.47 when Zinoviev scored his first goal of the tournament, assisted by Morozov and Kovalchuk. Patrik Elias equalised after 9 minutes and the Czechs took the lead 3 minutes later through Kotalik. The Czechs hit late penalty trouble and Russia tied the game up with 0.3 seconds left on the clock on a 5 on 3 powerplay through Gorovikov. End of the first 2-2, leaving the huge crowd waiting in anticipation for the second stanza.

Things got a bit out of hand on 25 mins when Russia lost their goalie Eremenko. After a Czech move broke down in front of the goal, a Russian player appeared to cross check the Czech forward, who fell on top of Eremenko. A bit of handbags ensued and two players from each side sat out minor penalties. After brief treatment Eremenko looked ok but fell over dramatically seconds later and had to be helped from the ice. Rooke back up Mikhail Biryukov came on for his first ever WC game for Russia. It transpires that Eremenko has a tear in his right ACL and is done for the tournament. The loss of their top goalie did not seem to faze Russia as they took the lead 2 mins later when Morozov was in the right place at the right time to re direct a shot from Markov. With seven minutes left in the period, the Czechs equalised as Elias scored his second and Czech Republic’s third goal of the game. End of 2nd 3-3.

Patrik Elias scored his third goal with just less than 3 mins gone in the final period to put his side 4-3 up. Three minutes later and the game was all square again when Russia hit the twine through Korneyev. That ended the scoring and the game went to overtime.

The extra period was only 26 seconds long when Russia were awarded a penalty shot for a trip on Kovalchuk. It did not look to me like the Russian had the necessary daylight to merit the shot. However his wrister pinged the post and Czech Republic lived to fight another few minutes. The game winning goal came 3 minutes later and it went to the reds of Russia. Morozov again in the right place at the right time to wrist home from the circle. An outstanding game that neither side deserved to lose.

In the groups second game of the day, Denmark consigned Italy to the relegation round with a resounding 6-2 win. The Danes raced to a 3-0 lead by the 10th minute with goals from Green, Stahl and Hansen. That was enough for the young Italian goalie Tragust and he was replaced by veteran Gunther Hell. He was unable to stem the tide and Denmark went 4 up with only three minutes of the second period gone. Nielsen scoring on the powerplay. Cirone pulled a goal back for Italy to send both teams to the second break at 4-1. Italy staged a bit of a revival and pulled another back through Fontineve. Denmark upped the pace after this and put the game beyond doubt with two further goals by Damgaard and Degn to end the scoring at 6-2 to Denmark.

 

Jim "Tambo" Piper

Related read

2008 IIHF World Championships logo

The 2008 IIHF world championships are under way


Manchester Phoenix Community Sports Foundation

Click here to visit Phoenix TV

Join our 200 Club